Thursday, June 22, 2017

Gazela.

The Marketing Queen at TWWIAGE recently gave me a copy of a Japanese magazine to read in which TWWIAGE was featured.  I say read, but there was not one, single word of English in the current issue of What-Wine!? (their punctuation, not mine) magazine.  So I just looked at the pictures.  And very nice pictures they were: it is a beautifully produced publication.  However, something other than photographs of TWWIAGE's vineyards and winemaker caught my eye.
The first time that I tasted Gazela's Vinho Verde, I remember thinking that it was pleasant, but that I had had better.  Well, I have since had to eat my words (or rather, drink them).  I drink Gazela all the time and I can still buy it at my local supermarket for $3.99 (if I buy six bottles at a time, which I do). The photograph that intrigued me in Wine-What!? was that of a Gazela wine called 'Frutos Do Mar' (seafood). Although I did notice the initialism 'DOC' in the write-up of this wine, I gleaned no information from the magazine's text.  So off, onto the internet I went.
Apparently, last year Sogrape, the producer of Gazela and Portugal's largest family owned winery, decided to repackage their Vinho Verde specifically for the Japanese market.  It seems that 'Frutos Do Mar' is the same wine, but packaged to let the Japanese consumer know that the wine is seafood friendly.  Can we say, sushi?  Yes, we can.
I had noticed that Gazela had changed the label this year/batch (remember, it is a non-vintage wine) from the old clear label to a new silver label.  I'm just wondering if  the seafood-friendly-marketing-move will make it to the USA in the future: does America need idiot-friendly labelling?  Actually, I don't care - I'm going to continue to drink Gazela no matter what the packaging looks like.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Dr. Jezza.

Vinomaker and I had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Jeremy Parzen Ph.D. in Vinoland the past two days.  It wasn't really a social visit, although we did have a lot of fun and good conversation on Friday night.  No, Jezza was in California to work on a very exciting, new project for him, so he was just passing through.
And he departed Vinoland just in time.  It go to 104° F today: it was stinking hot.  Of course Vinomaker had picked today to be a bottling day. The St. Helena Sots, thankfully, showed up in Vinoland early and the bottling event went smoothly, quickly and without incident.  It was so hot that there was, unfortunately, no afterglow-luncheon - it was just too uncomfortable to be outside.  Don't know about anyone else, but I for one didn't want to be the BBQed meat!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Green, green grapes of home.

The weather has turned hot, finally!  We have had three days of mid 90s temps.  I'm loving it, but the grapes probably aren't as enthusiastic about it as I am.  So, to make the little grapettes feel better, they have been treated to their first watering of the season.
Watering the vines is not as easy as just turning on a tap, of course, nothing is that straight forward.  The vineyard drip irrigation lines have to be flushed of any deposits that may have collected in the lines over the previous growing season - deposits that could clog the emitters.  In Vinoland, the main culprit is the iron bacteria that is in our well water. The intense orange colouration of the water that blasts out of the end of the lines, (always my end of the line, Vinomaker is always upstream), is fantastic.  Stay hydrated, little grapies!

Friday, June 09, 2017

California quailettes.

It's hard to take a good photograph of a moving target, or targets.  What I initially thought was an army of cavorting frogs, turned out to be covey of, at least, ten baby quail bopping about under the watchful eye of their ever alert dad.  (Two to Mr. Quail's right side, one behind his tail and seven bringing up the rear.)  I got as close as I could, but dad was getting more and more agitated by my presence.  Mum was no where to be seen.
This might have been the little 'uns first time out of the nest: they are tiny. Mr. & Mrs. Quail have been hanging around Vinoland for weeks now, but I couldn't quite work out where they had decided to make their nest.  I know now, so no work in the Syrah block for a while.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

California calyptra.

It rained today; heavy at times, but mostly a miserable, stubborn drizzle that lasted all-the-grey-day-long.  And the temperature climbed to a whopping 65° F.   Hmmph!  Not exactly optimum conditions for bloom in the grapevines - which seems to be going quite slowly this year.  Come back, California-sunshine.
The number of days that the grapevines are in bloom is dependent upon the weather.  When conditions are favourable bloom can take about 8-10 days, (but it can take as long as two weeks under cool conditions like the Napa Valley is experiencing now).  And, of course, the flower clusters on a grapevine will not all bloom at exactly the same time, so that spreads bloom out a bit.  Still, I think bloom is more protracted this year.  I have also noticed that there are more clusters per shoot and that the clusters seem to be a bit bigger than the past two years.
Do not be alarmed by this picture of detached grape flowers from one cluster of Cabernet Sauvignon at TWWIAGE (and hand-modeled by a coworker).  Although it looks like a lot of dead material; anthers, calyptra, stamens, etc., it is quite normal.  As few as 20 to 30 percent of the flowers on a cluster will develop into berries, most will fall from the cluster during the initial stages of berry growth.  Furthermore, a significant number of flowers will drop from the cluster about 8 to 12 days after full bloom: a stage commonly known as shatter.  Fruit set is not complete until after shatter.  Phew!  It's a jungle out there.  Fruit, set, now!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Bloomin' 'eck!

Yesterday, when I was working in the vineyard, stuffing shoots and suckering trunks, I noticed that bloom is rather advanced in the Cabernet Sauvignon vines.  How did that happen? There didn't seem to be much going just this time last week.  The weather was warm at the beginning of the week, but temps have cooled to the low 70s and it's been a bit windy. Whatever is going on the vines seem to like it.  Carry on buddies!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Still loving them thar hills.

Last week, due to an event that was held at TWWIAGE, I was able to taste this incredible wine, the 2014 Smith-Madrone, Cabernet Sauvignon (Spring Mountain District AVA).  The Wine Institute of California was holding its third international 'California Wines Summit' and I was lucky enough to be involved, albeit in a microscopic capacity.  The Summit was a week of tastings and events meant to showcase California wines to key wine-media and trade folks participating from 10 different countries. (Yes, the United Kingdom was well represented.)  There were a lot of great wines in attendance also.
I don't think the  2014 Smith-Madrone has been released yet, perhaps I shouldn't even be blogging about it, but it was just so spectacular I can't not write about it.  Whilst I personally think it's insane that some producers are releasing their 2014s already I just couldn't put my glass of this 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon down.  And over the past 10 days I haven't stopped thinking about this wine.  (I'd estimate that only half a dozen wines have had that effect on me in my entire life.)  Abounding with black fruit and spices this wine is certainly, in my humble opinion, not ready for drinking yet.  But, if my experience with a 1985 Smith-Madrone is anything to go by, I am predicting that this wine is going to be magnificent, oh, about 29 years from now.  Can't wait.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Bloom is bustin' out all over.

Everything is blooming in Vinoland, except for the Cabernet Sauvignon. But that is not surprising, as the Cabernet Sauvignon is always the last variety to go through bud break and bloom.
The wonderful weather we have been having in the Napa Valley of late is absolutely ideal for bloom. Vitis vinifera generally likes the temperature to be about 85°F during bloom and will quite happily bloom away in the heat - until temperatures reach above 95°F when, like me, the vines get a little toasty.  Temperatures above 95°F can result in bloom, and fruit set, being adversely affected.  The grapevines and I are so sensitive.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Just because 9...

...Today would have been Joey Ramone's 66th birthday.  And also because it is 40 years to the day that Thud actually met The Ramones, in Liverpool, on May 19th 1977.  That particular day was Joey Ramone's 26th birthday.  Thud still owns The Ramones t-shirt he bought that same day from Joey's brother, Mickey Leigh.
It's not a secret that The Ramones are perhaps my favourite band ever, thanks to Thud, and it is no surprise to me that I enjoy their music now just as much as I did when I was a teenager. What has been a surprise to me is that, 40 years later, we now have a new generation of Ramones fans in the family.  Thud's nine, almost ten, year old daughter possibly knows more about The Ramones than me and her dad combined.  It's amazing to witness and it's a constant source of amusement to me.
Thud can be seen in the photograph on the right, or at least his leather jacketed-back can be seen, talking to Joey.  Great memories.  Happy birthday Joey.  And RIP.
Photographs courtesy of Ian Dickson.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

I doff my calyptra to you, Pinot grigio.

I noticed last week that the Pinot grigio vines were starting to bloom, just a little bit here and there.  A week later, I am estimating that they are probably about 60% through bloom, (or anthesis).  Just look at those calyptra coming off.
There is a lot going on out in the vineyard right now; flowering, shoot stuffing, suckering, sulphuring, weeding, mowing, etc.  Phew!  The vines are busy, so am I, but I am not too busy to pause and acknowledge that the vines are doing most of the work.  Go buddies!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A tale of two bottles.

I was just saying to someone recently that, of late, I rather enjoy it when I open a bottle of wine that I can't drink.  That is, undrinkable for a variety of reasons; cork taint, over the hill, etc. And then it happened the very next night.
The wine on the left, the Henry Earl Estates 2013 Merlot (Red Mountain AVA), was totally oxidised and, yes, undrinkable.  Down the sink it went. I suspect that the wine was in this state when it was bottled, probably having been produced poorly.  (The cork appeared sound, no leakage.) This bottle of Merlot was a gift, which probably contributed to my rapid rejection of this wine.
The wine on the right was a quick replacement - simply, the next bottle at hand - as dinner was being served.  The Goosecross 2014 Amerital (Napa Valley AVA) was tasty, quite moreish and not oxidised.  And, being a blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon and 43% Sangiovese, it just so happened to be a much better pairing with my Bolognese.
Life is too short to drink oxidised oenos!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The old and the new.

New Cabernet sauvignon leaves, old Cabernet sauvignon tendrils.
Vinoland's grapevines are enjoying a fantastic start to the 2017 growing season.  All four grape varieties are flourishing right now; lots of vigour in the vines, so lots of shoot stuffing for me to perform.
The weather has been a bit up and down, mid 90°s last week, mid 60°s the past two days.  I hope we are not going to have another cool growing season like that of 2011.  Only time will tell.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Afternoon in the Vineyards: 2017.

This afternoon, Vinomaker and I ventured out of Vinoland, but we didn't go too far.  Staying fairly close to our Coombsville home, we decided to attend Afternoon in the Vineyards the annual event hosted by the Napa Valley Vintners.  And, for the first time, Vinodog 2 came along with us.
The folks at Faust, our vineyard of choice, farm approximately 112 acres in Coombsville's gently, rolling hills.  The vineyard is planted to five grape varieties; Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah and Sauvignon blanc.  And all the vines, from what I could see, are head-trained and cane-pruned.  The weather was a tad cool, the scenery was beautiful and V2 had a poo.  Not much more to say really.  Oh, except that I did taste a Faust 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, but didn't think an awful lot of it; too plummy and one-dimensional, not a lot going on.

Monday, May 01, 2017

¡Trabajadores del mundo, uníos!

Happy May Day!  By which I mean a cheerful May Day to all, but only in the ancient-spring-festival-laudatory-way of celebrating the first day of May.  I love a bit of paganism now and again.
Yes, it is spring and, like me, Vinoland's grapevines are suitably enthused.  I spent most of the past four days making sure that the new, rapidly elongating shoots are securely tucked up behind the trellis wires. I love viticulture.  I love farming the grapevines in Vinoland, but, at this stage in my life, I wouldn't want to pursue viticulture as a full time job. Things, and people, change.
TWWIAGE is in the process of hiring a viticulturist.  The vacancy was just posted on Winejobs.com.  It is a new position, as TWWIAGE has never had a dedicated viticulturist before.  Instead, the owners of TWWIAGE went the traditional route of employing a vineyard manager who oversees all things grapey.  But things change.
I would not be an eligible candidate for the job. Neither would my young coworker, The Doodler, who is in the process of working his way through UC Davis and has designs on making a career out of viticulture. Why? Well, The Doodler, like me, doesn't speak Spanish and, furthermore, has no particular desire to learn Spanish.  But speaking Spanish is a requirement of being considered qualified to perform the job of viticulturist.  As The Doodler commented, in wry observation, "California [Napa] is the only place where one has to learn a foreign language in order to get a job in one's own country". Thought provoking.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Happy St. George's Day, 2017.

Who is this international dog of mystery?  It's just my faithful Vinodog 2 celebrating St. George's Day.  Yes, today is the Feast of Saint George, so V2 and I are dressed appropriately for the occasion.  And I've been singing Jerusalem all day.
I wish I had timed my holiday a little bit better, so that I could have celebrated St. George's Day in England this year.  Unfortunately, I departed "England's pleasant pastures..." 48 hours too soon.  Perhaps next year.
Happy St. George's Day to my family, friends and any dog who loves England as much as I do.